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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Chinese torch guards are 'thugs' says British Olympic chief

April 9, 2008

By Laura Clout and agencies

Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London Olympic Committee, has
described the Chinese officials guarding the Olympic torch as "thugs",
piling more embarrassment onto the Games' organisers.

Lord Coe was overheard talking about the attendants, who formed part of
a huge security presence around the flame, during a private telephone
conversation with a member of his press team.

The Chinese guards, more than a dozen of whom surrounded Olympic flame
during its chaotic journey through London on Sunday, are officially
employed to ensure the safe handover of the torch between runners and to
ensure it remains lit throughout the relay.

But the attendants, thought to have been recruited from the security
services, have been criticised for allegedly using aggressive tactics
against protestors demonstrating against China's human rights abuses and
the occupation of Tibet.

The criticism adds to the PR nightmare suffered by the Chinese over the
torch procession, which has been repeatedly disrupted by pro-Tibet
protestors. Yesterday, the authorities were forced to deliberately
extinguish the flame for the first time ever as it passed through Paris.

Lord Coe made the comments as a member of Channel 4 News staff was
attempting to contact him over the telephone and they were accidentally
connected via the switchboard to a private conversation.

"They tried to push me out of the way three times. They are horrible.
They did not speak English ... I think they were thugs," he said.

In a statement, Channel 4 News said: "By chance Channel 4 News had
attempted to contact Lord Coe's press office via their switchboard and
was accidentally connected to the conversation he was having with a
colleague, a 2012 press officer Jackie Brock Doyle."

Last night a spokeswoman for London 2012 confirmed Lord Coe, who won two
Olympic gold medals as a middle distance runner, had made the comments.

She added: "Seb was commenting on media reports about the role of the
flame attendants during yesterday's torch relay.

"He was expressing his concern with the way he had been treated by them
when he was on the relay route."

Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister, later added fuel to the
controversy, saying the Chinese guards will be banned from escorting the
torch when it goes to Canberra later this month.

Mr Rudd said Australia would be providing its own security.

"As the Attorney-General said in Australia some weeks ago, we will not
be having Chinese security forces or Chinese security services providing
security for the torch when it is in Australia," Mr Rudd said during a
joint press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"We, Australia, are providing that security. What Olympic officials the
Chinese bring to Canberra is a matter for them but on the security
front, we will be providing that."
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